SEC Power Play: Missouri Forced East by Petty Alabama

David SteinleContributor INovember 11, 2011

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  A detail view of the Southeastern Conference logo with all 13 member universities is seen during a press conference for the Texas A&M Aggies accepting an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference on September 26, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images)
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

The University of Missouri has finally achieved the mission it set out upon over a year ago. The Tigers will be leaving the listing ship that is the Big 12 Conference next July to join the Southeastern Conference.

The SEC wasn't the first choice of many MIzzou boosters, namely Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, but the SEC has a mega-bucks contract with CBS, numerous football games each week on ESPN, and more important, equal revenue distribution, where perennial cellar dweller Vanderbilt takes home the same amount as uber-powerhouse Alabama.

However, Mizzou's admittance into the elite SEC comes with strings attached.

When the Tigers come on board, they will be forced to play football and baseball in the Eastern division, setting up ridiculously long road trips to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The shortest road trip in the East will be to Vanderbilt, which is the only other division member in the Central Time Zone, yet more than six hours away from Columbia.

Alabama is to blame for Missouri's forced placement in the East, and it stinks.

When Mizzou was being bandied about as the potential 14th member of the SEC, Auburn was more than willing to move to the East to allow Mizzou to move into the West.

Auburn stood to gain much from the move. Sure, it would have lost the yearly rivalry with LSU, since Alabama would have become the Tigers' permanent cross-division opponent, but not only would Auburn keep its yearly rivalry with Georgia, but it would renew rivalries with Florida and Tennessee, whom Auburn played every year prior to the arrival of Arkansas and South Carolina in the SEC in 1992. Auburn would have lost its yearly rivalry with LSU, but more Auburn fans would likely have been able to get over it, seeing how the yearly series with the Gators and Vols would come back, and not to mention picking up two of the SEC's traditional weak links, Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Yet what Auburn was willing to accept, Alabama was not. Surprise, surprise, What else would you expect from a rivalry where some "fans" are so sick they poison trees?

The Crimson Tide was apoplectic over a potential Auburn move to the East, seeing as it would end their yearly rivalry with Tennessee. The "Third Saturday in October" has been part of the culture in Alabama and Tennessee since Bear Bryant played for the Tide and General Neyland prowled the sidelines for the Vols, and the thought made the Crimson Tide nation shudder.

Nick Saban wasn't behind the power play to put Mizzou in the East. As much power as he wields, he's only a football coach. Undoubtedly, the charge was led by Paul Bryant Jr., the chairman of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. It's likely Little Bear commanded Alabama president Robert Witt to deny Mizzou entry unless it kowtowed to the Tide's whims.

Alabama didn't have to be so petty. It would be simple to solve the Tide's dilemma. Alabama and Auburn could move to the East together, and either Kentucky or Vanderbilt would shift to the West.

The team which moved from East to West would keep Tennessee as a permanent cross-division rival. Alabama would not lose much, as Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State do not create much, if any, buzz in Tuscaloosa, given the Tide's dominance of those schools. The Tide would trade Ole Miss and State for two of the SEC's better gate attractions, Florida and Georgia, as well as get a shot at Steve Spurrier and South Carolina for however long he's around. Also, Tuscaloosa is within easy driving distance of every SEC East school, while it is a haul to College Station and Fayetteville.

Auburn would renew yearly rivalries with Florida and Tennessee, as well as keep those with Alabama and Georgia. With the Atlanta airport being within easy reach of Auburn, as well as short driving distances, Auburn fans will be happy to ditch Baton Rouge and Fayetteville and avoid College Station.

Missouri could not only continue to face Texas A&M on a yearly basis, but would be ensured of facing next-door neighbor Arkansas every year, as well as starting a new "Tiger Bowl" with LSU.

Alabama cannot see the forest through the trees. The Third Saturday in October is important, but the Tide should have looked harder in order to save it.